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Paul Tracy DANISON
Paris, France
Coach humanist
Interests: Human potential
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“People United”, Joanne Leighton. Photo: Patrick Berger 2021 Children, behave!/That’s what they say when we’re together!/ And watch how you play!/They don’t understand/ And so we’re runnin’ just as fast as we can/ holdin’ on to one another’s hand,/ tryin’ to get away into the night,/and then you put your arms around me and we tumble to the gound/and then you say, ‘I think we’re alone now!”/The beating of our hearts is the only sound… Tommy James and the Shondells, 1967 Paris’ performance spaces are set to open on 19 May. After three lovely days of six performances at the Atelier de Paris’s audience limited and socially-distanced “platforme professionnel”, I want that. I really want it. I long for it. I am not the only one longing, either. Since late March, like Robert P. Tristram Coffin’s Maine Auntie tying to wish up the telephone to call a quack on the mainland, my pal Huang has been willing the Avignon festival into renewed existence. However, the general tone is on-verra-bien, of battle-weary poilus. Everybody’s sick of everything, whether of the know-nothing yahoos on the right, woe-is-my-purse business types or the jumpy government, afraid things will bugger all at the last minute. Tempted by tastes of pleasure like Atelier de Paris’ lovely plateforme professionel and longing just to get on with it, I still just don’t know if an opening really should happen this coming Wednesday. My doubt is part partial observation, part gloomy signs and portents, part finicky rationality, part home truth. Some years back, it seems I inherited that little bird who used to shamelessly tittle-tattle my lies and evasions to my mom. This damnable volatile witters on in a voice pitched between feu-mon doux frère gasping his last prophecy and Cardi-B cheerfully praising her own twat. “Trace,” croons the bird, “Six weeks on and this so-called world’s-second-greatest-market and super-power-in-its-own-right has vaccinated you once… Not the best of vaccine choices, neither. … And, this R -.75 notwithstanding, the overall data’s no thrill – look at those clusters on the cloud graph … Trace,” sneers my little bird, “Tracy. Is it any wonder that Avignon – then, as now, a dense honeycomb of tiny, airless rooms sweltering inside a stone labyrinth of narrow, humid passages – is most famous for a truly legendary losing bout with the Black Death? … And. Tracy,” the bird pauses for effect, “Listen… When all is said and done, doesn’t contemporary France, private and public, plexiglass, steel and concrete France, conserve, preserve and just still stink with a cheek-by-buttocks social architecture and social organization worthy of medieval Avignon? ”…. I’ve got my doubts indeed. But, finally, the Atelier de Paris’ excellence has shown me a better way. In fact, I’ve already said yes to the opening of the Printemps Arab festival on the day. Damn the torpedoes! And all that. What made the Atelier so persuasive? Programmers usually try to capture what’s in the air, what’s good, what’s hip. But, at least this time, the Atelier... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
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Photo: Courtesy Atelier de Paris What you gonna do when you get out of jail? I'm gonna have some fun And what do you consider fun? Fun, natural fun The Genius of Love, Tom Tom Club I got a thrill when the Atelier de Paris’ newsletter appeared in my inbox the other day. “Thrill”? Aren’t thrills reserved for moments of life, like the moment when I first touched the cool, dry hand of the – these days – pale, vaguely adipose, woman just behind me, limbs lopping deadlike off our blood-red Récamier? The livelong day now, this woman hogs the whole of our empty ceiling with her disgruntled stare. The stare, I must say, in its hint of godlike irony, is a work of esthetic genius. I get up, bend my face over hers so I can kiss her and she me. We do. Tamed it may be, but a thrill is there, here and now. This is a moment: here and now. Of course, by the time I sit back down and she’s reverted to her esthetic state, we’ve both forgotten the thrill and the moment – it wouldn’t make evolutionary sense if we spent every blessed moment savoring the thrill of it. God’s bones, we get little enough done as it is. True science observes, anyhow, that moments are the twisted skeins of a life, the bosons of a thing of talking flesh. Smollett demonstrates that thrill is the invisible but sensible ether that jolts a life this way and also that and thus visibles the otherwise fleeting moment. Cécile Mont-Reynaud, “La Fileuse”. Photo © Pauline Turmel Four years ago now, the Circassian (artist-acrobat) Cécile Mont-Reynaud, whose high-wire performance as Fate thrice-personified in her performance La Fileuse (“Yarning”), proved all this beyond a doubt in front of the public library Romain Rolland in the eastern suburb of Romainville, now served by the number 11 line. Karine was there and, if you can get her attention, she’ll vouch for it from our blood-red Récamier, reading from the stippled whitewash of the naked ceiling. “A medusa, a mop,” I wrote as Mont-Reynaud’s skeins visibled in the senible ether, “A fleeting moment, lampshade merry-go-round, a cocoon, a caterpillar turned weeping willow, a shower of rain, a pinata, a bird’s gilded golden cage, a trunk, an obstacle course of visibled bosons, a raging sea, a maypole, a ladder of knots or a knot of ladders, a spherical stair of golden hair... an uneasy plinth-cum-diving board to address the gods and reason men, slip knots, electric wires, cords and dis-chords, strands of muscle. Swing through string: What a thrill.” There you have it. Memory only makes it seem thrills make moments or vice versa. But thrill is a moment here and there and everywhere. And memory? Another subject. So, I felt a thrill the moment I saw the Atelier’s newsletter in my in-box. Not because choreographers’ Liz Santoro and Joanne Leighton figured there, although they do. But because I suddenly realized that the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2021 at The Best American Poetry
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“Day 1” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu ©Sarah Meunier Ami entends-tu le vol noir des corbeaux sur nos plaines/… C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons / …Motivés, motivés/ Il faut rester motivés!/ Motivés, motivés/ Il faut se motiver! – “Motivé, Le Chant des partisans” - Zebda Here is an odd fact such that one only learns when the extent of one’s activity is staring into space, listening to shards of famous operas and wondering about the history of words floating listless in the Zeitgest. The English “quarantine” – “40 days isolated” is cognate with the French “quarantaine”, which also means “forty-something”. I mention this because, just to see how she’s been holding up in le moment bizarre – I mean, what with the shelter in place orders, the remote working, the masks, the absence of mountebanks, monoliths and UFOs, the eternal grinding gears of – …. Of...what? Exactly? Love? Longing? – I mailed the photographer Sarah Meunier the other day. Sarah not too terribly long ago, graciously sent readers of the Best American Poetry a Joyeuses Fêtes! in portraits of the people of Bagnolet, the little Paris suburb where we both live. Motivée, in spite of all, maybe because of it all, too, Sarah keeps on scanning the horizon, not just the ceiling. “The Lightbulb” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu©Sarah Meunier All indoor, online, hygienically confined, of course, Sarah’s horizon has lately had to be herself, which is as close to a virtuous philosophy as one can get in, in fact, some say it's as close to wisdom as one can get. She titles her series Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu. As I say, Sarah Meunier looks in while looking out; I, on the other hand, look out while looking in. Clearly, her looking loop not only starts differently than mine but gets stretched and molded differently, too. I’m waiting with dead hands for the theaters to reopen, for the mountebanks to peacock, waiting to rush into a crowd and see Gaëlle Bourges’ OVTR (ON VA TOUT RENDRE) and Liz Santoro & Pierre Godard’s MUTUAL INFORMATION. Both at the Atelier de Paris/CDCN. Both pieces remind me of the infinite variety of the Dance that powers the quantum wave we are. Bourge’ll do it through extravagance of movement, Santoro through precision of it. “The package” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu ©Sarah Meunier Sarah Meunier, in contrast, looking inward to look outward, will be spending her end-of-the-year breakout cultivating her post-Covid Expo-Choc of Comic-book style shots and reflecting on Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu, an experiment, she says, in “becoming (my)own object”, which at the same time looks at how much the objects of her life are part of her as a subject. Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu twists 21st-century selfies into gartered-nude poses and postures, like the mouldering Playboy pin-ups my grandad kept into his fishing trailer at Burr Oak lake. “The Laundry” Quarantaine/Le Confinement mis à nu©Sarah Meunier While Sarah Meunier says she did her pin-ups for fun... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Ayelen Parolin’s “WEG” dance-performance choreographs observation, imitation, vibration, variation and novelty, letting onlookers revel in the complex subjectivity of human relationships. “Indispensable !”, Atelier de Paris, 11 September 2020. Photo©Benoîte Fanton For this year’s Nuit Blanche culture and arts festival, I chose a performance venue called Le Générateur. While I was hanging around waiting for another show to start, somebody suggested a visit to an installation-performance called déjà… j’ai habité tous ce mots. The performance was originally scheduled for the local park but the government closed the parks abruptly as a health-emergency measure. I had to go in a doorway and wait at the foot of a stairway for somebody to come get me. There was a low table with beribboned paper scrolls strewn over it; little blue link-light lit the stair risers. After a while, a young woman called, as I learned later, Anne-Sarah Faget, came down, said hi, grabbed a scroll, unrolled it, made a sign for me to follow. As she went up the stairs, she began to read – at first, I didn’t realize it was a poem, by a dead Congolese poet called Sony Labou Tansi, I learned afterwards, who had, as I followed, a resonance of sense-of-Baudelaire. Anticipating Anne-Sarah Faget’s pace was hard – it’s hard to follow anybody – clumsy collision is the stuff of comedy. You have to concentrate, I had to concentrate – how far is right, how near is wrong? I didn’t want, nobody wants, to be left behind. Then I heard the poem Faget was reading. Sony Labou Tansi says consciousness has destroyed the world and all that is left is that making-dream of ours, a dream like the mist between two mountains at a distance. ‘Though it comes from somebody already beyond the grave, the observation moves me. Anne-Sarah Faget arrived just before me in a room where scrolls like the one she was reading the poem from hung from the ceiling, like rolls of sticky fly catcher or like room partitions. She handed our scroll to a handsome African-looking fellow – whom I later learned is called Cheriff Bakala – who bade another man rise and me sit. In a warm, smiling baritone, the handsome man read the rest of Sony Labou Tansi’s poem to its finish. After, I helped Bakala hang the scroll from the ceiling, a sticky flycatcher or a space partition, like the rest. Until moving within what I call Faget and Bakala’s “dance- (performance)”, I had never known what “carried away by words” meant. I do now. But there’s more sense to dance- (performance) than inhabiting the language one uses. There’s also the fact of movement in dance- (performance), the foundational fact that movement in space is what I feel to be “me” and the foundational fact that the “me” in space is what we mean when we say experience. Faget and Bakala, and the artist-performers and programmers at Le Générateur and elsewhere, are not the first to recognize the fundamental importance of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Masked and distanced but pleased to be there. Audience at Ayelin Parolin’s "WEG" dance performance, 12 September 2020, during the Atelier de Paris Indispensable ! festival. Photo © Benoïte Fanton As I write, it is still early and, as nearly every weekday morning, the little kids downstairs are off to pre-school. I hear them rustling around on the landings, tugging on their wraps. I hear hurried Dads chivvying them down the stairs, hear them calling up “Bisous, Maman”, hear Mamans calling down, “Bises, ma Chérie, Bises!” La Bise or le bisou, used interchangeably, means “a kiss”, connoting “a little (viz., widdle, liddle, wittle) kiss(ie)”. It’s sweet sound in the morning and cheering. We need a little cheer too. The corona stuff is getting old. Though ICUs still have capacity, the Paris region and France in general are experiencing significant rises in both Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations. While the median age of those sick unto death, dying or dead, is 60, infection is spreading mostly in institutional settings such as workplaces and health establishments among 20- and 30-somethings. Up to now children in school are a negligible factor. Authorities made masks mandatory in work places in early September. Lately they have taken marginal actions such as shutting gyms, requiring bars and cafés to close early and encouraging distance appointments. While able to take quick quarantine action thanks to institutional organization and firm public support, delays in producing test results - largely thanks to an un-thought – through free test-on-demand option – has seen authorities struggling to set up a reliable tracking system. Also, political concerns about privacy, some fears, especially among the young, of the lifestyle consequences of testing positive and assumptions both about the efficacy of technology and about what the public will bear, mean that the smartphone app hasn’t produced any miracles and that obvious moves such as collecting customer names and numbers in cheek-by-jowl gathering places such as cafés, bars and restaurants has not been tried. In spite of the shortcomings, the rise, as in Italy and Spain, is something of a puzzle. As far as I can make out, despite caterwauling and recrimination, France’s goddamned gumint is as stolidly competent as New York’s or Korea’s or Germany’s. Indeed, weren’t he such a caricature of an empathy-challenged nerd, President Emmanuel Macron’s faith in the power of solutions through strategic fact-based analysis and well-organized public action would almost be enough to make him liked. Alas, unable to understand sociocultural issues more complex than those represented in an Isaac Asimov novel systematically gives people grounds for distrust of his good sense and judgment. For instance, Macron recently remarked that critics of his planned 5G or 6G or 7G – whatever – wireless net rollout were a passel of Amish. It is simply beyond the poor fellow’s power of imagination that some be-hatted, bonnetted organic farmers might actually have a notion of a “good life” that doesn’t include a smartphone and invasive advertising. Nor does it occur to Macron and his... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Noe Soulier’s “Passages” in movement at the Gothic forest of the Conciergerie. Photo Patrick Berger ©Atelier de Paris I met Huang by chance… In the line, quite by chance, Huang was… By chance, I met Huang in the line… to see Noé Soulier’s Passages at the Conciergerie on the île de la Cité… Passages was part of the Atelier de Paris’ brave post-lockdown Indispensable ! performances program concentrate. Huang had a good place in line, so, full of bluff and bonhomie (thus fobbing off challenges to my cutting the line), I slithered in next to him. While we, as always, talked excitedly about the performance, underneath I was actually excited by the prospect of going inside the Conciergerie. Until the Passages performance, I had only been able to cast my eyes through high grimy windows onto the Conciergerie’s vast sunken hall. I thought that it surely is true Gothic. Spiritual, you know. Though I told Huang it was about primeval forests and barbarian cultural memory, not something so damned woolly. I wouldn’t want him getting the wrong idea about me. Even through dirty windows, I have to say, the profane eye travels up the plain squat stone pillars, rides the surge of arcing groins into the shadow of vaults high above. The eye rests there, surprised, as if by sudden light, startled into mind. Indeed, before it became Marie Antoinette’s death cell and a tourist attraction, the Conciergerie had once been the throne room of Clovis I, King of All Franks, a German tribe that pretty much ran this corner of northern Europe at the time. Spirituality and history. Rejecting the Arian god-man theory of Jesus’ divinity, Clovis I subscribed the three-spirits-same-flesh or Trinitarian theory, thus ensuring a 1000-year primacy for the misguided theories of language of Augustine of Hippo, doctor of Christianity. I blame Augustine and subsequent Christian poohbahs for sanctioning the cruel habit of making reality from words : De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. Augustine, not that sweet old Romantic Goethe, is responsible for “Those-are-not-bombs,-honey” Goebbels. I expected Noé Soulier’s Passages would in some way flesh out the history and architecture of the Conciergerie, illuminate my mind’s eye with some unbid aspect of the place. Instead of Clovis or Augustine or the Police, Yasmine Hugonnet came to mind. As good in her way as Sting, Hugonnet is a dancer and choreographer whose work I’ll have the pleasure to see at Atelier de Paris in October, and have seen at Regard du Cygne and Lafayette Anticipations – very different contexts. Hugonnet calls her performance troupe Arts Mouvementés, thinking of how, as her web site has it, “form, image and sensation intertwine, how the imagination, becomes …” and how “the process of incarnation and appropriation” works through and how to get these things into or out of choreography. Beyond negotiating the twists and turns of choreographic culture and heritage to intertwine, incarnate and appropriate into a given performance, it seems to me that Hugonnet’s insight is that... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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“Cold Blood”, state-of-the-art live performance by Michèle Anne De Mey, Jaco Van Dormael and Kiss & Cry collective, La Scala Paris, 2019. Photo©Julien Lambert Here comes the sun, do, dun, do, do/ Here comes the sun, and I say/ It's all right Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear/ Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here/ Here comes the sun, do, dun, do, do/ Here comes the sun, and I say/ It's all right - Here Comes the Sun – George Harrison, 1969 France just reached nine thousand daily infections again, I hear. There are uncertainties but, under rational government, a bit of risk, even delicately calculated risk, is a reasonable bet – especially in something as important as the performing arts. Gwénaël Morin’s Uneo uplusi eurstragé dies opens Atelier de Paris’s ten-day wonder Indispensable! program, heavy on new creation, with performances in open and closed space until mid-September. Indispensable! is my foot in the post-pandemic waters but also opens the 49th annual Festival d’Automne, the Paris theater, film, music, dance and visual and tactile arts program – which runs into February 2021. Over the coming week I’ll be seeing, among others, artists who should have been featured in the Spring, at the Atelier’s June Events or the Printemps Arabe programs, or that, like Gwénaël Morin’s piece are also part of the Festival d’Automne. Performers on the Atelier’s Indispensable! program include Noé Soulier (at the Conciergerie); Thomas Hauert, Liz Santoro & Pierre Godard, and Carolyn Carlson, who proves that dance makes getting old unnecessary at any age. In late September, if all goes well, I’ll be seeing new circus performance by Bartabas, who demonstrates better than anyone the links of potential between species, dance by choreographers such as Jérôme Bel and Boris Charmatz. Charmatz is this year’s Festival d’Automne. I’m looking most forward to the psycho-perceptual genius playwright Nathalie Béasse new work Aux Eclats, a work she introduced as a WIP last Fall. Perennials like Atelier de Paris and annuals like Festival d’Automne are not alone in opening in spite of different health-safety, programming and box-office challenges. Only under my hand here, among many other interior-only spaces, the privately-run La Scala Paris’ sophisticated contemporary performance space; the Palais de Chaillot’s Art Deco experience inside an esthetic experience and the gemütlich garden party atmosphere of Le Monfort in its nice little park way down south. Nathalie Béasse’s will open the 2020-21 program at Théâtre de la Bastille, intimate and polyvalent, a theater’s theater’s typical theater, with a nice little bar, too. Right now at Chaillot you could see, free, among the expressionist splendor, Jann Gallois and Emmanuel Gat rehearsing absolutely new performances. At end of September, there’s the Echelle humaine dance-performance program in the tight and very unconventional space of Lafayette Anticipations. Echelle Humaine is also part of the Festival d’Automne’s performance program. There’s also the reprise of Micadanses with its Bien fait! program of new and in-progress work in the dance-school’s Arthaud-type basement space.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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A mountebank tries her hand for the Compagnie Gwénaël Morin’s “Uneo uplusi eurstragé dies” performance, which opened the post-lockdown season in Paris. Photo©Emile Zeizig/mascarille.com Yeah baby, I like it like that/ You gotta believe me when I tell you/ I said I like it like that/ You gotta believe me when I tell you/ I said I like it like that … - I Like It by Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin, 2018 The brakes on Karine’s electric bike squeak abominably as I twist nervously through Vincennes and Montreuil, pedaling back from the Atelier de Paris, behind the Parc Floral in the Bois de de Vincennes. The morning is still grey. It’s about 8. Poor thing. The bike, I mean. I’ve taken it because it’s an advantage when I’m up early, feeling old and living in a city humpy and made narrowly but with broad ideas, like Paris. Compagnie Gwénaël Morin open Atelier’s season with a dawn performance of his Uneo uplusi eurstragé dies (my guesses : “One bizarre moment more” or, maybe, “In one brain, many moments bizarre”). The performance knits together Ajax, Antigone and Heracles. Distraught, determined, destined, each was responsible for their own death. Dawn is just the right note to open on in the Covid-era; there’s a new day between sun up and sundown – anything is possible. I think “rosy-fingered dawn”, Odyssey, Odysseos. I laugh, remembering swotting Greek. I remember that every single day begins all on its own… Live Dance does that, too – I think of Morin’s piece as “Dance”, for instance, because I’ve concluded all “performance” grows from the fundamental art of Dance. Dance begins and proceeds and beginsunique, like the days of our lives, like remembering, like the reincarnating soul is said to do. This apprehension of its one-time-only quality is why live Dance is as universally sacred as it is profane. The Catholic Mass is a Dance of Remembrance, Passion and Resurrection; the Passion is the mother of plays and all true mountebanks. Playing Uneo uplusi eurstragé dies as the sun rises is a natural homage to the Dance in ourselves. We onlookers are masked-up, raggedly distanced, flopped or tailor-legged or leant against the bigger trees in a trampled little meadow just outside the doors of Cartoucherie’s Aquarium theater. Local families often gather here for soccer and impromptu picnics. The rain this morning hesitates often enough that, playing or looking on, the performance stays outside throughout, damp but not soaked. Fat grey clouds roll above as we look on. Lit by one giant globe lamp, the stage is carved from onlookers by a circle of reddish DayGlo spray paint, dimensioned by a big board on which somebody has written “AJAX ANTIGONE HERAKLES”. Twenty-something mountebanks in jeans, one cream molding-sack dress, sneakers, some in ponchos, one bare-chested, chorus, fall on their own sword, just say ‘no’ to wrongness and finesse their own pyre, all with pomp and style that wouldn’t surprise Sophocles or Molière. The house offers coffee and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Zoe Salmon performs “Ma Robe”, Regard du Cygne, Paris, 8 March 2020, Photo©Morena Compani “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it”. - Isadora Duncan The moment bizarre is not over, of course, until live performance starts up again and this here (now) fat boy loses the five pounds he put on during lockdown. Still, in all, what with the salutary correction in the Weltgeist and a change in direction in categorical imperatives, things do seem to be looking up. As I have since mid-March I spend long periods on the blood-red Recamier, golden pillow under my head, hearing my heart throb and gazing at the ceiling. My own analyst. My own analysand. As I lie gazing, my Persönlichergeist has often been full of Isadora Duncan, the (re)founder of dance in the modern world. Yes, she is. Duncan’s autobiography and Jérôme Bel’s Portrait dansé of Isadora Duncan, wonderfully done up by the excellent Elisabeth Schwartz marked me in 2019 as did the performer Ruth Childs, dancing her first solo, fantasia, who gets mixed in with my reflections on the sense of “dance” sense. The last venue I was at before the lockdown in mid-March this year was Regard du Cygne, a dance-performance theater space in the Belleville neighborhood, metro Télégraphe or Jourdain. Amy Swanson, the founder and guiding spirit of the place, like Elisabeth Schwartz, is a practitioner of dance in the Isadora Duncan tradition. One of the last things I saw performed at Regard du Cygne was Swanson’s piece Ma Robe (“my robe, my dress, my gown”). Robe’s wordless universal sense and personal sensibility in performance recall what I’ve been thinking Duncan is all about. Blood-red Recamier with golden pillow In her performance of the piece, Zoé Salmon enchants the audience by elegantly uprising her approximate six feet through about 30 yards of heavy gown fabric. She somehow gets across both complex senses of “becoming”: “right and lovely” and “evolving”. And, thereby, somehow, she opens up a vision of the becoming world for witness. But really, the success of Ma Robe – the sense, it seems to me, to Duncan’s idea of dance – is its ability to appeal to a shared conviction that, “danced”, a robe-dress-gown points to the centrality of self – yours, mine, their – in our world. Everybody – I, my companion, Karine, the little girls sitting behind and around me, their moms and dads, as well as the other adults in the audience, recognized and accepted that Salmon’s rising so personally, so elegantly, up through Ma Robe was (is), really-truly, the universe becoming. Real invitation. Photo: Ana Belén Cantero Paz Terpsichore’s – and Duncan’s – art treat a level of complexity Aristotle and Thomas Carlyle just never imagined. What happens at “dance” (maybe at all live performance) resembles what Saint Augustine said could only be true at the Eucharist: the wine and bread are body and blood, the gown is the universe, the thing represented is... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Beach at Jaffa, Israel, during lockdown©Felice Ross 2020 Sacred. Between earth and sky. Connected. Holding hands. Reaching down. Stretching up. Eye and see. You. In the middle. A bird on a branch on a leaf on a tree. A fish in water in a river to a sea. Life and body. Me. In the middle. Breath, air. Sickness, death. Us. Between Sacred. Connected. Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
Notes from confinement: on silence and altering states [by Tracy Danison] C'mon, c'mon let's merry go, merry go, merry go round! (Boop boop boop) Merry go, merry go, merry go round! (Boop boop boop) Merry go, merry go, merry go round! I say let's merry go, merry go, merry go round! I say let's merry go, merry go, merry go round! Merry-Go-Round (1968), Wild Man Fischer There were said to be too many new joggers, so at some point they forbid us to go outside between 10 am and 7 pm, except for shopping. At 8 pm sharp, my neighbors are at their windows and on their balconies, clapping, calling and pounding pots and pans. Monsieur le Président de la République, Emmanuel Macron, begins a pretty fair speech at 8.02 pm. He thanks everyone for their tenacious civic solidarity and the police for its vigilance. Macron says we can look forward to phased liberation from confinement beginning 11 May. If all goes well. Nadia Vadori-Gauthier performs her 1917th one-minute dance. She began the project in January 2015 as “poetic resistance” to barbarity in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper massacre. She’s put together a site, Danses de confinement, which has so far put more than 500 minute-dance contributions on line. Today a year ago, I walked out of the Châtelet Métro station, looked up to see Notre Dame burning. I had no idea stone could burn and so fiercely too. It turns out the place was a thousand-year-old pile seasoned oak. Valentine Nagata-Ramos, is a dancer and starting-up choreographer whose Cie Uzumaki dance troupe brings together manga culture – Uzumaki, “Spiral”, is a horror series written and drawn by Junji Ito – hip-hop, feminism and her own unique background and presence. Valentine has been putting her social media house in order lately and seems as cheerful as usual. If dates for Fall 2020 hold up, it looks like she has good prospects for her BE-girl dance project, which was rolling along sweetly before they banned live performance. These are gorgeous lingering evenings upon gorgeous lengthening days, pretty warm and dry for April. Karine tells me she just met Marek walking with his handicapped boy. They live just behind her little house. Marek’s a child dentist. Father like son is enjoying confinement. It’s very positive, they say. It makes everybody realize everything is connecting. Connected? O! Sorry. We’re all the earth, we mean. At some point in the fuzzy-tough week before Macron’s speech – that would be toward the fourth week of confinement, Holy Week, Pessach, what have you – the WhatsApp streams of funny videos, neighborly sentiment and ironies suddenly dried up. Somehow or another in there, Silence just fell over all our little worlds. I think the Aspidistra crash landed – remember Orwell’s image for the “everyday determination of everyday people” that keeps a body going in face of petty cruelties, hard work and dog shit on the sidewalk? I think it experienced a mechanical failure; Men in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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A Tale from the Decameron (1916) by John William Waterhouse On Wednesday, 2 April, the number of Covid-19 cases in France as a whole, formally diagnosed in an institution or with symptoms serious enough to get them taken into care, stands at 59,105. At a total of 4,503 deaths so far, Covid 19-related mortality is reported as 10% every 24 hours. In Ile de France, the region of Paris and its suburbs, there are 10,273 people hospitalized, up 63% since 28 March. Of these, 2,301, about 23%, are in intensive care. Government strategy has assumed that the population had already been largely exposed to the virus by the time it began to take action. It has depended on mandatory confinement to slow rates of infection in the general public. Confinement has now been extended to 15 April. The ministry for health also announced plans to make testing widely available, linking it to a gradual wind down of general confinement. As for a possible end-date, the prime minister told parliament not to hold its breath. A Decameron to call my own Call me Boccaccio. As in 1348, I just have to hunker down and wait it out, hoping I won’t be too poor to buy food and shelter when I can finally come out. I am lonely, too. WhatsApp and Facebook, Skype, jet planes, virus tests, free hospitals, big armies, on-line shopping, rational government, drones, shared posts, tech billionaires and free money don’t unmake the one any more than the science behind them has been able to undo the need for confinement. Sometime after Tuesday, 17 March, morning – I can’t really say how much time after because I was so wrapped up in a time-gobbling scramble to put “on-line” the classes I teach – the everyday economy stopped and most of the usual noises off stopped along with it. It was in that undefinable time between Tuesday morning, then, that I, they, he, she, you, we began living ce moment bizarre, this weird time. “This”. As if pointing toward an ineffably complicated dream that hangs on and hangs on just out of the reach of sense, well after sleep has gone. Social distance “Us”. In the stairwells and on the stoops, the neighbors and I realized we were hunkered down together. We wondered on the landings and in the little kid play area how best to social distance. Some unexplored magic transfigured the guy downstairs, the Bulgarian ex-dancer, the lady on the landing the-one-with the-lap-dog-you-know, the couple on the second floor, the bus driver … Monsieur Barre de là-bas, en haut, and more that I have not yet come to suspect, became “us”. “Them”. We closed ourselves to étrangers à la residence for the duration of the health emergency. Somebody made up some bureaucratic-looking signs that tell them so. Now we have the view of our Atlas mountain conifers and root-knotted greensward all for our own eyes. Still, in the night, I sometimes hear rumors of music muffled, of warm,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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It's all up in the air for Christina Towle's "Bounce Back" – Photo © Timothée Lejolivet And she'll have fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the T-bird away (Fun, fun, fun, 'till her daddy takes the T-bird away) - Fun, Fun, Fun, Mike Love & Brian Wilson (1964) Late-afternoon, Friday, 13 March, the day they shut the schools and universities, Karine and I were watching choreographer Christina Towle rehearse a new piece she calls Bounce Back at Regard du Cygne performance studio. Towle’s Bounce Back piece shows basketball as movement rather than game. Good idea, good show. Intriguing dramatic challenge, too. We did not know then that this was the last dance piece we would be seeing for an unforeseeable future. We did not know that “bounce back” might apply to our future hopes as well as to basketball. We did not know that, as we sat, Gaiety was shooting the moon, stiffing the help, taking the last train out. To help slow the exponential spread of Covid-19, they had shut the bigger theaters, performance, athletic and leisure spaces, with a single decree effectively laying off most, but not all, performing artists and entertainers in the Paris, in France. As we were leaving, a guy from city hall came to discuss Regard du Cygne’s fate with Towle – a performer and choreographer, she is also the studio’s programming chief. Karine and I speculated on that as we walked home. Saturday night, 14 March, Karine and I ate late in a crowded brasserie. The supper was meant as a cheering goodbye. Karine had decided to go home early the next day. The little boy-girl duo of barely-legal servers were urging another drink on us; not something servers usually do in this country. Enjoy it while you can, the boy said, They have shut us all down from tomorrow morning. It’s true? Karine asked the girl. For once, she said, smiling, Honor bright. The brasserie was stuffed with anxious, youngish foreigners speaking English of every native and international accent. Students? IT people? Tourists? While we were guzzling extra-large portions – waste not, want not – and swilling those last blushful Hippocrenes, the authorities shut down the goddam gyms. This hit home. A key element in the Nine Circles of Life, Gym is enthroned in Movement but has at least a modest claim to a stool in Conversation, Desire, Pleasure, Open Heart, Good Humor, Reason, Imagination and Fair Dealing. I met Karine at Gym. Next morning, Sunday, 15 March, I saw her off. The weather was as fine as it gets on a 15 March along the 49th parallel, north; for some reason, I just love the walk down from Gare de l’est to République. Since there was no rush to have any old how now, I threaded down to the canal, figuring to double back to République by a deliberate and circuitous route made short, sweet and straight by Movement and Imagination. People were already out in their droves enjoying the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Valeria Giuga, “Rockstar” © Patrick Berger – Atelier de Paris I found myself feeling slightly shamed to be clapping so hard and enthusiastically at the finish of Valeria Giuga’s clever and thoughtful dance performance Rockstar at Atelier de Paris/CDCN. Around me, too many fellow spectators showed off that peculiar form of un-enthusiasm that signals disapproval rather than, say, disappointment. The mechanics of Rockstar work well. It has all it takes and not too much of it, either. Rockstar is easy to enjoy. The Rockstar scenario, its light, music and choreography all roll out smoothly. An amorphous musical frame doubled by a soft-light visual frame supports a heavy-duty weft and warp of three danced all-time hit-parade toppers: Papa Was a Rolling Stone (The Temptations, 1972), Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode, 1989) and Fame (David Bowie, 1975). Giuga consistently creates an atmosphere that is playful and not-quite distracting, not-quite hypnotic … Come to think of it, her creation manages to evoke an emotional something very much like what rockstars create, at least the ones I’ve seen on TV… Finally, a professional in full possession, Valeria Giuga dances supremely well. If her choreography got me thinking “rockstar”, her personal style got me feeling Peter Robert Auty’s version of “Walking in the Air”. We’re floating in the moonlit sky/… I’m finding I can fly so high above with you/… Suddenly, swooping low, on ocean deep/Rousing up a mighty monster from his sleep! Resentfully, I redoubled my enthusiasm. It happens to me often enough that I don’t appreciate what those around me seem to. Also, like other people, often enough I can’t say why I can’t appreciate a perfectly well-constructed piece. The point of live work, after all, is that it’s fully and directly relational: feeling and sense before, during and after performance count. Like psychoanalysis, the underlying scenario of live performance is Life, capital L. Sullenly mulling the contrast between my enthusiasm and other spectators’ un-enthusiasm got me associating that, when I was a little boy, I also used to feel shamed that neither of my grandfathers had gone asoldiering. Feeling shamed is a fact, a natural fact, like fun. A sculptor told me with a straight face he did wood because there warn’t no metal on Tobacco Road. He then threw back his glass of sparkling wine, with feeling. I was born on Airstrip One. There shame and honor reigns. Going for a soldier was – to echo the Barry Goldwater slogan – a duty, not a choice. In those “post-war” days – before active shooter drills – cringed under my school desk, my cowardly trembling as I breathed hot and quick the air of Victory, Fire, Ash and Dust of the second world war shamed me too. Something Wicked This Way Comes. Mrs. Needoh, the fourth-grade teacher, worried aloud whether the nearby VulcanizedÒ rubber factories had adequate ack-ack. Feu my brother was shamed for telling me, That woman is crazy. Was he shamed because he spoke out of turn, said the shaming phrase... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Where, when, who for?: Adrien M. & Claire B., “Faire Corps” © Romain Etienne Until the other day I associated with the Gaïté Lyrique with music & sophisticated light and sound shows; last year, among many others, the venue featured the inimitable Alice Phoebe Lou and a fifth annual music-film festival (F.A.M.E). So it was really good to see Adrien M. & Claire B’s digitally-generated Faire Corps (“All Together”) installation – material sculpture, virtual visual, public and performance interaction, sound, music and environments. Even more through-provoking, in some ways, than the Faire Corps installation – which is proving a big attraction – was to hear Jos Auzende, Gaïté Lyrique’s artistic programmer, take the opportunity of the Faire Corps opening to clearly place “digital” in the context of culture and creative achievement. Nearly 10 years ago, the city of Paris re-inaugurated the historic Gaïté Lyrique – Jacques Offenbach was once its director and Diaghelev started his Ballets Russes there – as a “center for digital art and culture”, without, I think, knowing what that could mean. Now, Auzende seems to say, just as we all see Fantasia as the achievement of Walt Disney animators and storytellers working, say, in a “pre-empire Americanization culture”, not just as the result of applying color-film technology, so we should see that the achievement and interest in digitally generated work such Adrien M. & Claire B.’s lies not in how, but in where, when, for whom they have re-invented or appropriated digital technology to make it work. Taking a stand for cultural context as the primary lens through which to look at esthetic achievement where contemporary digital technology is involved seems to me really challenging. For music, for example, no matter how it is generated, we take the centrality of creation and culture for granted. “Digital music” means “music generated using digital technology”, not “music that is (somehow) digital”; it is indeed hard to think of any music generated in any way that is not essentially viewed and critiqued through its cultural context. But, when it comes to “digital art”, the same casual assumption of cultural primariness is not true. People do often mean “art that is digital”, dropping culture all together and identifying the creation with the technology the creators used to achieve it. A Simulation: Adrien M. & Claire B., “Organismes Typographiques” © Laurence Fragnol The tendency to squeeze creation and culture into the tool is due, partly, I think, to intense commercial promotion of digitalized stuff (saleable) and digital uses (rentable), of course. But more especially, I think, digital technology is seen to be and is presented as, a competitor to humans. Contemporary digital technology simulates human physical and mental movement: repetitive gestures such as driving or abstract processes such as judgment. Most funded digital R&D in industry and entertainment (and a lot of institutionally-funded Middle and high-brow art) turns around substituting digital technology for (saleable) movement and behaviors: slicing off and splicing up bits of recorded human movement and converting it into... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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François de Brauer, La Loi des prodiges (ou la Réforme Goutard) © Victor Tonelli I heard on the radio that a bartender in New York has proposed clarity & truth as 2020’s watchword. Sounds good to me. You first. Ready. Set. Go! I am one of those people who smile all the time, even sleeping, even toting a machine gun. In spite of everything; the smile reflects my true feeling; I’m with Isadora Duncan, feeling is all that really counts. But neither smile nor feeling reflects what I actually think about things in the round. Once, when I cautiously let her in on one of my thinkings, my late Mother burst into tears, sobbing out, What cynicism! I was 18 then, bless me, already a soldier. My Mother was among the most fully-integrated hypocrites who ever walked Yahweh’s Stony yet Righteous path. Rightly, I believe, I took her outburst for sign and portent; a thinking is mostly better left unspoken. Lately, my thinking has been affecting my feeling. I’ve been darkly thinking, for instance, that life might very well be a play – a story, fairy tale, novel, opéra, musical comedy – in which I’ve failed to play my assigned role. Don’t get me wrong. I love narrative. But narrative is just a tool of art, an interesting wart on the clitoris that is Life. Narrative just ends up; Life becomes. That’s why the non-narrativeness of La loi des prodiges (ou la Réforme Goutard), an absorbing two-hour one-man show that I saw not long since at La Scala Paris has very nearly brought me around to renewed smilingkeit. La loi des prodiges (ou la Réforme Goutard, a veritable feat of thespian endurance and mastery, is scenarized and performed by François de Brauer, rather new to the dramatic scene but certainly upcoming. I am not sure how to translate La loi des prodiges (ou la Réforme Goutard). I can’t decide whether the prodiges are natural wonders or human prodigies. In France, a certain fetishistic pedantism means that laws get reformed rather than changed or replaced, or even dreamt up or projected. A réforme commonly carries the name of an individual guilty of proposing it, presumably so that he or she may be punished for sticking his or her neck out later, when nobody’s looking. So, the title’s all very dense, as they say, and so is the piece itself. But good dense: “with depth that entertains”. La Scala has the knack of good dense. As I write, I’m thinking of, last year, among others, Machine de cirque’s breathtaking acrobacy within an entirely different framework of dramatic success or Anne de Mey’s wonderful Cold Blood multimedia piece, also an absorbing meditation on theatrical technology and technique. François de Brauer’s La loi des prodiges strikes me as a performed graphic novel. Taking on about 20 rôles – amazingly, one never once loses sight of who is who and who’s doing what – de Brauer creates complex situations such as protagonist Rémi Goutard’s birth,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Detail, “Tree of Light”, OMA Space installation, Mobilier National 2019 © Jonathan Tanant Paris by bike in a time of strike… Passing by the Mobilier National warehouse, then swinging up under the elevated line... will actually shave a mile off my return journey, I pragmatically assure myself, slip the phone in my coat pocket, kick the pedal up and wobble off. The reduction of my trip by a whole mile is much easier to explain than any product discount ever will be: distance is experience and, so, also elastic. As I pedal along in my chosen city in its time of strikes, the usual nauseating taste of burnt petroleum byproduct gathering on my tongue, I am thinking that it is actually legal to make and sell and profit from whatever environmentally poisonous thing you want. Yet there are those who smirk and jeer at the naïve syllogism “distance is experience and experience is elastic”. Drôle de world, ours. In no time at all, the Mobilier National (at 1, rue Berbier du Mets) slides into view. “Tree of Light”, OMA Space © Jonathan Tanant Mobilier National keeps on keeping on, having improvised itself through changes of dynasty, epoch and régime, massacre and siege, real and farcical revolution, coups d’état, budget cutbacks and pension reform. So, now, in addition to moving around the trappings of government, it runs the renowned tapestry and rug manufactures of the Gobelins, Beauvais and the Savonnerie, along with the national lace works in Puy-en-Vélay and Alençon. And, since France has long been a very strong – maybe the strongest global player in luxuries and luxury equipment and technique – think wine or … perfume bottles or … food logistics – Mobilier National also encourages and supports innovation in textile conception and production.The agency is to France what the US federal General Services Administration’s “Department, Sub, for Furnishings, Historical” would be had GSA been founded to serve the needs of an improvised medieval court. “Notes and folds” , Amor Munoz © Jonathan Tanant Housed in one of the finest and first examples of building with concrete (with an art deco style), Mobilier National is the state agency that provides classy furnishings to institutions such as ministries or embassies. Mobilier also develops techniques and technology around art conservation and restoration. This past Fall, the innovation-support arm of the agency held its first public show of projects in hand: Prière de toucher le fil (“Please touch the thread”). In addition to a monumental staircase (in case a medieval king-equivalent shows up, I reckon), false and real walls, corridors leading through architectural terrains vagues and discrete health and safety advice, there is sturdy three-tier shelving spread over three full walls. In the tiers, often wrapped in half an acre of bubble wrap, a visitor can’t help noticing – and wandering over to take a close look – at the love seats, chairs and occasional tables of well-upholstered eras past.Since 1, rue Berbier du Mets is a working warehouse, administrative center and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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"L'Arène", from Don Quichotte de Trocadéro: Choreographer: Jose Montalvo/Performers: Sandra Mercky, Patrice Thibaud/Venue:Théâtre National de Chaillot, 2013 Monsieur Loyal commente la ballerine s’évente et pique la piste en vrille rouge banderille (MC Gayffier) – MC talktalking / ballerina / thrusting / redded blade /right through The season of giving has come and, I expect, like hatchlings blindly looking for a behavioral model, you all’ll be needing something lovely – a little brain and eye toy – to fix on in the New Year 2020. I’m glad to gift you with a glimpse of the work of live performance photographer Benoîte Fanton (www.facebook.com/BenoiteFantonPhotographies). Judging from Fall 2019 retrospective shows hosted by both Mac Créteil, choreographer and activist Mourad Merzouki’s urban dance temple in suburban Paris, and the high-brow commercial Théâtre du Rond Point on the Champs Elysées, Fanton’s dramatic images speak not only to me, Karine, and my circle of esthetically circumspect performance gourmets, but to every kind of lover of the movement arts. So it should. Fanton has specialized in capturing dance performance – photographing more than 2000 classic, modern, contemporary and urban dance shows in Paris and across France – for the last 15 years or so of her 20-year career. The photographs offered above and below are from Fanton’s retrospective collection, entitled Sur quel pied danser. I reckon Sur quel pied danser means to be in some doubt as to how to go forward. As a collection Sur quel pied danser, Fanton writes, is dedicated to the notion of holding on (with aplomb) once you, as James Brown famously implores, Get on up. Get on up, hold on: good advice for opening any year, but especially for this one which open out on to the last chance to do something serious about the climate emergency before it becomes so complexly exponential there is nothing we can do. At Fanton’s shows, and in her photo book (also titled Sur quel pied danser), each photo is accompanied by a short meditation by MC Gayffier, painter and musician and, of course, poet. Gayffier’s lines admirably take on, fit to and gel with Fanton’s pictures. I’ve interpreted rather than translated what I think of as Gayffier’s “New Parisian Loose Haiku”. In my mind, the mechanic of her writing was like that of a neo-realist painter than Zen-consciousness warrior: looking from the model to the words and back again. The interval between the focus points was where the poetry was written. I’ve tried this same imagined mechanic in my interpretative effort of Gayffier’s work, swinging my focus from her lines to my visual sense of the photo, putting down the words that result. I hope my encounter with Gayffier’s sensibility makes her work shine through for you. Get on up. Hold on. _______ Jarretière Asobi (Jeux d’adultes): Choreographer and performer: Kaori Ito, Compagnie Les Ballets C de la B/Venue: Théâtre National de Chaillot, 2014 Faire jouer La puissance du gastrocnémien medical Et l’agilité pianistique Des orteils en fleur – Play / Power of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Pierre Joseph: “Mur de mûres”, série “Photographie sans fin”, 2019: paper print. Photo: Aurélien Mole©Adagp 2019 Motivé, motivé / il faut se motiver / il faut rester motive / soyons motivé Le Chant des partisans – Zebda If every demonstration by transport unions were a revolution I’d have bought myself, or, perhaps, been served, thousands of bowls of strawberries and cream by now. The duc d’Orléans’ machinations notwithstanding, common sense tells those with ears to hear that those who have never, ever, do Révolution. No matter what the would be Révolutionaires shout, it’s more likely to be civil war than millennium. O! Empty slogan! O! Hollow Révolution! So, as I have indicated to Karine, who is lately shouting and revolutionating a lot, I do believe, as everywhere and in all times, most of what is supposed gold in all this is but cheap gilding, likely dangerously greenhouse-gas rich, too. Forget the gilded promises, I tell the woman. Turn down the heat, snuggle up close, let’s take the bike, enjoy producing less CO2, playful-like. In a time of strike, get a-pumping. Find some fun in it. Révolution! Evolve and inverse things ourselves, gather up the pearls rattling under the hooves of the swine, make that silk purse, fix up a lemonade… Etc., etc. For instance, from our house, the Palais de Tokyo – the Musée de l’art moderne de la ville de Paris – is only 23 miles, there and back. Lemonade! Tokyo’s time-stretched contemporary art exhibition Futur, ancien, fugitif, Une scène française is ongoing. Futur, fugitif turns out to turn the usual on its head. Révolution! In a way. Agreeable erotic willies flutter through the cramps as Karine and I stroll its acres. Out of the passel of really fine work on show, the exhibition itself gets the big prize. I say this ‘though I think that every single esthetic worker in the Futur, ancien, fugitif show has bottom. So much so that I can even name particular favorites right off the top of my head as I sit here: Nina Childress, Jean-Luc Blanc, Anne Le Troter, Betrand Dezoteux… … And I was deeply impressed with how Futur, fugitif’s artists have made their own the sense of the work of the “60s” made something fresh and unique from the soul of comic books, stuff and plastics… Futur, ancien, fugitif forces me to think, maybe for the first time in respect to contemporary art that there is a positive force of “tradition” that comes from experience rather than from special intention... This thought is only one of many possible thoughts Futur, ancien, fugitif gets you mulling over. Anyhow, in the image of their soulful and sensitive choices, the curators of Futur, ancien, fugitif – a team including Franck Balland, Daria de Beauvais, Adélaïde Blanc Claire Moulène and Marilou Thiébault – put together a brilliant piece of conceptual, material and contextual contemporary art. Caroline Mesquita: “Soft Evasion”, 2019: cardboard, paint. Photo: Aurélien Mole After all, stitching together a satisfyingly representative patchwork of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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“fantasia”, Ruth Childs©Marie Magnin When my boy was very little we would be walking along and he would suddenly stop dead, quivering like a pointer, point at this or that, cry “Behold”. Where he got “behold” from is a mystery. The this could be a dog with a torn ear, a pigeon with smeared rainbow in its wings, the that a gang of louts emptying a van, a woman pushing a stroller. Whatever it was, my boy was moved, really moved by it. So, we’d spend the next while looking silently and intently on, trying to penetrate the mystery of this dog’s ear, that pigeon wing or those louts, that woman. He was apprehending, as the philosophers put it, the thing of itself. He was moved by the new feeling of – realization? wonder? enchantment? before the wide world. He was pointing that unique something that I look for when I say I am looking for beauty in art. In his “behold” he was a creator. Through him I could access the emotion of experiencing a thing new in the same way that I do when I confront of work of art. The other day at the Atelier de Paris, Ruth Childs’ performance of her fantasia, a new creation, gave me a “Behold” moment, a chance to feel the emotion of witnessing something unique, made me a little boy apprehending the wide world. This sounds exceptional, I know, but it’s what she somehow does. “Somehow” because Childs’ achievement is just not entirely explainable, though, whether it is set, light, sound, costume or gesture under scrutiny, everything in her performance is in place and (consequently?) in time. And I guess timing – in its kairos sense – developing then seizing the right moment, is what brings the spectator to the edge of witness. What makes her step over the edge to witness is in the “somehow”. “fantasia”, Ruth Childs©Marie Magnin Childs’ fantasia performance re-informs Beethoven’s dramatic symphony and relights the felt-images of Disney’s gorgeous animation by situating revealing jets and swirls of educated, emotive and elegant movement between them. She catches the spectator up in alternate forms of both: as music and image, memory and moment, as image and music, moment and memory. Total command of stage/choreography support the performance. She begins stretched out in the right-hand angle of a visual triangle induced by a stack of primary-colored costumes front stage and a white heap bottom stage. The effect is to force the eye from her long, exposed thighs to her human center: to be with her as she moves and possesses the stage, possesses the music, possesses the spectators with the art of her senses. So, centering on her center, mastering the art of set, pointing here to a crash of sound, there to a wave of color, Childs somehow enables unique witness. To behold. fantasia – Dance, Performance • November 2019 • Ruth Childs • Atelier de Paris, 12-13 November 2019• Α Ruth Childs has studied in the US... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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“Midi sans paupière” by Carole Quettier, Bien Fait! 2019©Charlene Yves Lady Felice Millefeuille-Bonté, the trillionaire who’s been trying these many years to reward my good looks with a hefty check and a friendly little squeeze of the hand, seems yet again to have missed me in September and October. Then again, so absorbed was I in Jérôme Bel’s wonderful Isadora Duncan – featured by the Festival d’Automne, danced by Elizabeth Schwartz, at Centre Pompidou. Or maybe she called during the Ballet de Lorraine’s fine Histoire sans histoire(s) – a good deal more than a Merce Cunningham tribute, by the way, choreographed and arranged by Thomas Caley and Petter Jacobsson at the Palais de Chaillot … I actually shut my phone off for Machine de Cirque’s entirely different acrobat act at La Scala Paris. I may have missed her in the excitement. Just my luck, my Lady might also have been telephoning me while I was tapping up my notes about the slew of dance performance pieces at Micadanse’s Bien Fait! 2019 festival. Had she been making her bountiful calls in mid-September, then dance performances such as Carole Quettier’s Midi sans paupière, Aurélie Berland’s short Études wigmaniennes or Gaël Sesboüé’s Maintenant, oui would have had me too focused to hear them: stock still, hands-on-knees, sage comme une image, as good as a picture, totally focused as we say now. Money is everything, of course, even, maybe, especially, for these excellent performers. But I regret nothing. I never have. Quettier’s Midi sans paupière, (based on a reading of Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne), is a 30-minute demonstration of an exquisite mastery of dancing narrative. She deserved every one of her six ovations. Maintenant, oui, a true Dark Waltz, constructed around group synchrony, shone like a thousand suns, though a hair too recondite to get the strong audience recognition afforded Quettier’s Midi. Aurélie Berland’s Études wigmaniennes, part of a WIP she’s calling Les Statues meurent aussi (from filmmaker Chris Marker’s “Statues also die”), is lively and forceful. It leaves you convinced that human movement created music and that’s all ye need to know. Of course, I could have missed Lady Millefeuille’s call also during a visit to the Mobilier National, where I got to test out touch-thread Jacquard weave technology. This innovation is the fruit of a partnership of Google and Mobilier, the successful, centuries-old, state-managed administration that runs the famous Gobelin weaving operations. Or, indeed, I may have been marveling at the truly panoramic vision of French contemporary art on show at the Palais de Tokyo (Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris)… Or doing some thought dancing on art history at the Musée Maillol … or, at Musée Marmottan Monet, reflecting on how classical notions of esthetics persist. I may miss Lady Millefeuille again in November and December. Unless of course she decides to join me. Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Too cold for a swim, too warm for a cozy read? Do a little dance “Samsara” by Jann Gallois/cie Burnout©Agathe Poupeney Beyond words in contemporary and modern dance and performance. YVONA – Performance Theater • Creation 2019 • Elizabeth Czerzuk • 90 minutes • T.E.C., Théâtre Elizabeth Czerczuk, Paris, until 20 December 2019 • Α Choreographed performance theater featuring a cast of 22 dancers, actors and singers, Czerzuk’s most recent creation takes inspiration from Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy by Witan Gombrowicz, the story of a unattractive and uninteresting princess and a prince who revolts against his impulse to like only attractive and interesting women. Yvonne, hero of the piece, says Czerczuk, puts traditional relationship criteria to a hard test, because she lives an authentic life Ω Concept, set and choreography: Elizabeth Czerczuk / Set design scene: Anna Chadaj and Grzegorz Jasniak / Costumes : Joanna Jasko-Sroka / Music: Krzysztof Penderecki, Wojciech Kilar, Henryk Górecki / Lighting design : Grzegorz Jasniak / Lighting: Lucas Crouxinoux / Sound: Lubin Leroy Gourhan MOVING IN CONCERT – Performance – dance • 2019 • Mette Ingvartsen • Centre Pompidou, Paris, 6-9 November, 2019 • Festival d’Automne 2019 Α Ingvartsen is especially recognized for her performances Red Pieces, 7 pleasures and 21 Pornographies, treating the human body and sexuality. With this piece she returns to her long-term focus on a world where all is animate and in intimate collaboration. It seems to me to be interesting to put her performance in parallel to Jann Gallois’ Samsara – the core concern, how do we humans connect and where is very similar. Ω Concept and choreography: Mette Ingvartsen with Christine De Smedt / Performers: Bruno Freire, Elias Girod, Gemma Higginbotham, Dolores Hulan, Jacob Ingram-Dood, Anni Koskinen, Calixto Neto, Norbert Pape, Manon Santkin / Sound: Peter Lenaerts / Lighting: Minna Tiikkainen / Costuming: Jennifer Defays / Set design: Mette Ingvartsen and Minna Tiikkainen / Dramaturgy: Bojana Cvejic / Technical director: Hans Meijer / Production assistant : Manon Haase and Joey Ng / Management of set fascias (friezes): Anja Röttgerkamp / Administration : Kerstin Schroth / Production : Great Investment vzw QUEEN BLOOD – Dance • 2019 • Ousmane Sy (a.k.a., Babson) • 60 minutes • Espace 1789, Saint-Ouen, 7-8 November 2019 • L’Embarcadère, Aubervilliers • Festival Kalypso 2019 • Α A force for dance on five continents, Ousmane Sy’s Queen Blood (La Villette, Season 2018-19) discloses the “conductor” within his “choreographer”. The all-women cast of Sy’s piece is made up of distinct individuals (so much so that I, for one, “forgot” their status as female and “remembered” their status as individuals during the performance). Sy’s choreography and directorial approach conduct rather than direct or manage the performers of his cast, solo and together. That is to say that under Sy’s “baton” each performer is a separate instrument of distinct sound and role, uncovering dance movement as body music. Ω Choreography: Ousmane Sy / Performers: Odile Lacides, Nadia Gabrieli Kalati, Nadiah Idriss, Valentina Dragotta, Cyntia Lacordelle, Stéphanie Paruta, Anaïs Imbert... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Paris Dance Performance: November - December 2019 Entangled in “Samsara” by Jann Gallois©Agathe Poupeney In November and December, Lady Felice Millefeuille-Bonté, the trillionaire débutante, will, I know, be trying to find me again to give me that check for a substantial sum. So, if one of her aides de camp reads the Paris Performance Calendar between serving her cream tea, Lady Millefeuille should know, right off the bat, that the Kalypso Festival 2019, France hip hop’s annual wave to the world, with 40 performances and 52 companies on show over 22 venues in Paris and the region, starts up in the first full week of November. Tell her I have plans for that. Also, she should know that I’ll be closely following Regard du Cygne’s Signes d’Automne program. Regard du Cygne, directed by Amy Swanson, a devotee of the divine Isadora Duncan, is a Paris where-to-go for new-creator dance performance. Over the past seven years, the Kalypso festival, a brainchild of the popular choreographer and inclusive culture warhorse Mourad Merzouki, has been promoting hip hop to dance-lovers from every horizon. I am listing four pieces. Two, Et Maintenant and Blow are new creations touching on gender issues by millennial choreographers Léa Latour and Karim Khouader, and a third, Queen Blood, a masterful demonstration of feminine performance by the celebrated choreographer Ousmane Sy (a.k.a. Babson) and his cie Paradox Sal. The fourth is a piece by the well-known “fusion” choreographer Amala Dianor, The Falling Stardust. All four touch on our times from a cultured but “non-elite” perspective that I think gives a sense of the depth and seriousness of the work being done by performers who use hip-hop as their launch point. The venues are easy access for short-term stayers. Attentive to entertainment in “Allegria” by Kader Attou©Justine Jugnet Thoughtfulness is not the exclusive domain of hip-hop. There’s, too, Jann Gallois’ première of her new piece, Samsara, “cycle of being”, at the Palais de Chaillot running into mid-November. Samsara is part of what I see as Gallois’ continuing study of how we humans move together, maybe of how close we really are; she’s gone to the trouble of elaborating her set to enhance the closeness of her performers and has been communicating about it. At the same time, at Centre Pompidou, Mette Ingvartsen’s Moving in Concert is dealing with a similar theme from another angle, imagining a world where the natural world, technology and humans together create the flow of being through luminous thought. Ingvartsen’s idea, like Gallois’, attracts me. I will also be attending double-header performances at the Théâtre de la Bastille. The bit I'm looking most forward to is Loïc Touze’s “Form Simple”, made up of Elucidations, a danced seminar, and the Goldberg Variations. Elucidations requires a good command of French for full enjoyment, but I think Touzé’s dramatic body elegance even so puts the seminar beyond the harm of words, especially as it is accompanied by Variations, well-spun around Bach’s piece. The Bastille program also includes Daniel Linehan’s... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Too cold for a swim, too warm for a cozy read? Do a little dance “Samsara” by Jann Gallois/cie Burnout©Agathe Poupeney Twenty contemporary and modern dance and performance offers in Paris, late Autumn 2019. Paris Performance Calendar is a work-in-progress “dance syllabus”, a “to-see agenda” of dance performance complemented by essays and articles about esthetics, creation and creativity along with interviews of creators and performers in The Best American Poetry and other publications. YVONA – Performance Theater • Creation 2019 • Elizabeth Czerzuk • 90 minutes • T.E.C., Théâtre Elizabeth Czerczuk, Paris, until 20 December 2019 • Α Choreographed performance theater featuring a cast of 22 dancers, actors and singers, Czerzuk’s most recent creation takes inspiration from Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy by Witan Gombrowicz, the story of a unattractive and uninteresting princess and a prince who revolts against his impulse to like only attractive and interesting women. Yvonne, hero of the piece, says Czerczuk, puts traditional relationship criteria to a hard test, because she lives an authentic life Ω Concept, set and choreography: Elizabeth Czerczuk / Set design scene: Anna Chadaj and Grzegorz Jasniak / Costumes : Joanna Jasko-Sroka / Music: Krzysztof Penderecki, Wojciech Kilar, Henryk Górecki / Lighting design : Grzegorz Jasniak / Lighting: Lucas Crouxinoux / Sound: Lubin Leroy Gourhan MOVING IN CONCERT – Performance – dance • 2019 • Mette Ingvartsen • Centre Pompidou, Paris, 6-9 November, 2019 • Festival d’Automne 2019 Α Ingvartsen is especially recognized for her performances Red Pieces, 7 pleasures and 21 Pornographies, treating the human body and sexuality. With this piece she returns to her long-term focus on a world where all is animate and in intimate collaboration. It seems to me to be interesting to put her performance in parallel to Jann Gallois’ Samsara – the core concern, how do we humans connect and where is very similar. Ω Concept and choreography: Mette Ingvartsen with Christine De Smedt / Performers: Bruno Freire, Elias Girod, Gemma Higginbotham, Dolores Hulan, Jacob Ingram-Dood, Anni Koskinen, Calixto Neto, Norbert Pape, Manon Santkin / Sound: Peter Lenaerts / Lighting: Minna Tiikkainen / Costuming: Jennifer Defays / Set design: Mette Ingvartsen and Minna Tiikkainen / Dramaturgy: Bojana Cvejic / Technical director: Hans Meijer / Production assistant : Manon Haase and Joey Ng / Management of set fascias (friezes): Anja Röttgerkamp / Administration : Kerstin Schroth / Production : Great Investment vzw QUEEN BLOOD – Dance • 2019 • Ousmane Sy (a.k.a., Babson) • 60 minutes • Espace 1789, Saint-Ouen, 7-8 November 2019 • L’Embarcadère, Aubervilliers • Festival Kalypso 2019 • Α A force for dance on five continents, Ousmane Sy’s Queen Blood (La Villette, Season 2018-19) discloses the “conductor” within his “choreographer”. The all-women cast of Sy’s piece is made up of distinct individuals (so much so that I, for one, “forgot” their status as female and “remembered” their status as individuals during the performance). Sy’s choreography and directorial approach conduct rather than direct or manage the performers of his cast, solo and together. That is to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Machine de Cirque, quantum acrobacy with gemütlichkeit ©Loup-William Théberge Imagine the Marx Brothers endowed with Buster Keaton’s naïve humor, tutored under Zen discipline by Cirque du Soleil’s best acrobats. You have pretty much imagined Machine de Cirque – acrobatic performers Raphaël Dubé, Yohann Trépanier, Ugo Dario, Maxim Laurin and Frédéric Lebrasseur – a circus company from Québec, currently at La Scala Paris. Machine is funny, sweet, strong, skilled, focused. Especially, it’s subtly exciting: perfomer leaps, twists, bounds, tricks and turns consistently touch the limits of possibility, play out where luck and ability meet in fluctuating proportions. Machine de cirque is, as Monty Python once put it, “something entirely different”. Maybe they’ve invented quantum acrobatics. Anyhow, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Witty and complicit like the Marx Brothers: like cows in the presence of a particularly well-endowed bull, we adults nervously pawed and snorted from the beginning to the end of the show. Like Buster Keaton, boyishly joyous and plain sympathique: the gurgly, delighted laughter of the children in the audience filled the air as these five big boys mimed silly suavity with girls, played with the nakedness taboo and good-naturedly whacked each other for the hell of it. Skilled like Cirque du Soleil under Zen discipline: there is, I think, some talent and mental discipline involved in holding sideways by the soles of one’s feet. I mean, what kind of force is required to stand, literally, horizontal, like a flag stretched in the wind? Frédéric Lebrasseur, the troupe’s drummer-musician-clown, opens the show by slapping up a beat. He uses the beat as a lion tamer might use a whip butt and hoop: to keep his charges grouped and circulating in rhythm, marking territory. Acrobats Dubé, Trépanier, Dario and Laurin prowl around a tall center-stage scaffold-like construction that is drawn forward enough that it narrows stage front to the 50- or 60-foot square rectangle that they mark as performance. Hanging above them are North America’s mantraps: slack wires, insulators, pipes, poles and rails and wheels and planks. Machine de Cirque, something entirely different with skits for the kids in us ©Loup-William Théberge Because performers are elbow to elbow, because a spectator sees everyone moving together in the same straitened space, because of the performers’ energy and concentration, the crowding transforms such fairly standard acrobatic feats as bat juggling or mounting a high-seated unicycle into rather tense drama. Machine de cirque’s derring-do, boyish joyousness, charm, Zen-strength skill and mastery of drama are not however what makes it entirely different. It’s the troupers’ interpersonal trust and solidarity that does that. Other acts strive to perfect execution of the just-possible – to get to the “ooohhh-aaahhh point”. Most circus acrobats, I expect, let go of the trapeze wondering, “Have I got the trick right?”. Machine de Cirque’s acrobats, on the other hand, strive for the – “Holy-Cats! point”. As one of them launches roof-ward, I expect he wonders, “Is it the right moment for this?” That’s because, at the point where the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2019 at The Best American Poetry